A riff on Vashon in the 1970s

Growing up on Vashon in the 1960s and 1970s it was a different time in more ways than one, first thing that comes to mind is that none of the kids had cameras they carried around with them 24/7, so photos of back in the day are few and far between, mostly boring pictures taken by parents. As we turned teens a few kids would occasionally have a Kodak instamatic or a parents camera, some like my neighbor, Mark Oliver had a 35 mm camera and took a lot of pictures (most of these kids were on high school annual staff). I have always remembered photos Mark took of us neighborhood kids, particularly one day when we were jumping our dirt bikes at the old Burton Elementary, low and behold Mark was going through old photos and texted the Holy Grail, a photo of ME jumping at Burton Elementary.

Brian Brenno jumping at Burton Elementary, Scott Sengstock standing, circa 1973.

I have been thinking about this photo for years and hoped one day Mark would find it and share it with me.

Another difference is there were less people here who were less likely to complain about kids thrashing around the woods (and Burton Elementary, though the cops showed up a few times). Many teenaged Island boys back then had dirt bikes, riding them through recent logging sites, old logging roads and other trails was a favorite pass time. In my Quartermaster Drive neighborhood I had a dirt bike as did, Chris Van Buskirk, Mark Oliver, Scott Sengstock and Kevin Gallagher, Stew Nelson lived above Burton Elementary he and Brett Bacchus who lived across the Harbor joined us too.

Mark Oliver riding, circa 1974.
Chris Van Buskirk, popping a wheelie in front of Frohnings house, circa 1974.
Scott Sengstock on Mark Olivers Honda, circa 1974.
Eddie Frohning riding mini bike, circa 1974.

Other neighborhoods had groups of dirt biking teens like Talhequah with the Mish, Gateman, and Russel boys all were dirt bikers. As teens dirt bikers from all over the Island would meet up on the trials.

About those cops at Burton Elementary, we would take our bikes to the top of the hill next to the school and at the corner we would start out and fly down the county road and pull into the top school driveway and head over the parking lot to the paved hill down to the lower playground at high speed a flying jump onto a smooth downhill landing, like riding a roller coaster hill. That and we would use the flat lower playground as a flat track oval racetrack. Several times the cops would show up, one time in particular we raced out of there and headed up the hill to the Nelson’s house where there was a trail that went up through the woods toward SW 204th. The cops followed us into Nelson’s driveway where Arline Nelson lied to the cops and told him she didn’t know who it was.

These days I do a lot of walking through the trails on the Island and I am always coming across a spot we used to ride, like the following photo from Frog Holler Trails, back in the 1970s it had just been logged and this spot was an awesome hill climb spot, the first time I walked the Frog Holler trial I recognized the spot in the below photo right away.

When not riding in the trails we made on the north side of Quartermaster Dr. Dugway Road and Vashon Hwy, we would all meet up at Burton Elementary and ride there for a while or head out to the trails that led us “Uptown”. To get “Uptown” we would go up to the Nelson’s where there was a trail that led to Sw 204th where we would ride on the road up to Singer Road (which at that time though crude in spots it went all the way through to the Cemetery and Sportsman’s Club, where we would cross Cemetery Road and take the route in black on the map below to end up behind what is now Grannies “Uptown” (at that time Grannies was a bowling alley and big teen hang out spot).

We loved this spot for hill climbs in “Valley of the Firs”, and would always slog through or try to avoid the big mud hole on what today they call 188th trail.

Every time I walk or ride my bicycle through the Island trails I’m going back in my mind to riding my dirt bike….I’m so happy that the trials have been preserved for the public to use for bicycles, horses and walkers, I have not been on a motorcycle in over 40 years, I did ride a few three wheelers and of course I crashed and broke a rib lol, but that’s another story.

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Blogging about Vashon Island past and present. I'm a 4th generation Vashon Islander, artist, dad and grandfather